Moving the Needle on Soil Health
February 17, 2021
- In that section. This is how we will verify who has attended these sessions. Please also note the participants must be on for the entire session in order to receive their credits. At the conclusion of the session I will share additional information on how to get credits. Before we get started, we'd like to take a quick moment to thank our sponsors who are shown on the screen. Due to their generous support we are able to offer this event at no charge to participants. We are also able to offer a college scholarship opportunity. Please check out the website for more information. We also have a short video that we'd like to share with you. Caring for crops and animals creates a unique stress and pressure that can be hard on farmers and agribusiness professionals. Caring for one's own health and wellness in this high stress professional's often overlooked, but is just as critical as caring for the farm business. Whether these stresses come from a financial issue or the stresses of everyday life, MSU extension can help. So, we'd like to show you a stress minute video. - Is there a cow bounce, I'm a behavioral health educator with MSU extension that focuses on farm stress with your farm stress tip. We know that farming is inherently an independent occupation with that, do you know the importance of staying connected? According to an article posted by the Centers for Disease and Control, although it's hard to measure social isolation and loneliness, there is strong evidence that many adults aged 50 and older are socially isolated or lonely. A recent study found that social isolation significantly increased the person's risk of premature death risks that may rival those of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity. Social isolation was also associated with about 50% of increased risk of dementia. Poor social relationships was associated with 29% risk of increased heart disease and a 32% increase of stroke. Loneliness was also associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. So, with that reach out to someone that you know, or either you've been thinking about, invite them to a coffee give them a phone call, send them a text. You never know how important that phone call or visit could be to somebody that is struggling. There's also a number of resources on our MSU extension farm stress website, and I'd encourage you to go there and know that there are a lot of people that are working very hard behind the scenes to support you as you support us. Thank you and have a great day. - If you'd like to learn more about the topic of farm stress please join us on Friday, February 19th at 11:00 a.m. for the session 'Mending the Stress Fence.' You can find the zoom link and passcode on the final schedule that was emailed to you. Now, let's jump into today's presentation. If you have any questions during the presentation please type them into the chat box, and then at the end of the presentation we will open things up so you can unmute if you'd like to ask questions directly. Let's begin, Paul, the floor is yours. - Thank you, Dean. Thanks for the introduction. And I really encourage everyone to put questions in the chat box. I'm Paul Gross, an extension educator in Central Michigan now Christina is gonna participate. She's a call presenter, so Christina. You already introduced yourself? - Sorry. I was muted, I was talking right there. Good morning. I'm Christina Curell. Like Paul and Dean, our extension educators, I'm soil health and cover crop, I'm over on the West side of the state. - Okay. Thanks Christina. The soil health topic to me is really exciting and I'm glad everybody joined us on this nice sunny day. And it is pretty cold today. Around...In central Michigan we had around 15 below is the lowest I heard. So, it's a good day. If the truck wouldn't start just to stay inside learn about soil health. And what's interesting about soil health in this short period of time, It's something that's really being talked about a lot. And I think this graph that we probably if you've been into this soil health conversations you've seen this graph in the past, looking at our soil has decreased productivity but we've really lost soil organic matter over the years. And I think this type of graph and this loss of organic matter probably is what really drove the USDA NRCS initiative, I think it was in October, 2012 to begin their soil health initiative. So, there's a lot of interesting things about soil health and a lot of conversation now talking about building organic matter carbon sequestration and how that might provide some value extra income for your farm not only income for your farm, but increased productivity and basic the resilience in your system. So, what is soil health? Soil health is defined by the USDA NRCS is the physical and biological characteristic that enhances the soil's ability to function. It's a number of different scientists, a number of different organizations have different definitions of soil health, but a good healthy soil it regulates water, it allows us to produce crops efficiently, helps in the nutrient cycling and protects the environment. That's part of what the carbon sequestration initiatives are. As we look at building soil health and how that might sequester carbon and provide again extra value and the ecosystem services that a good healthy soil can provide is also very good for our local landscapes. So, what's characteristics of a good healthy soil? It's got good tilth it's very suitable for crop production. It has decent depth that's the top soil is deep and dark, has adequate nutrients, good drainage and that good drainage if you look at that picture on the upper right you see the good aggregation of a healthy soil allows that water infiltration. I think another important part is the large populations of those microorganisms in the soil. When we think about healthy soils, we think about the soils that have the ability to function. And I think one of the real important things is a healthy soil is a resilient soil. Most of our crop production systems-- and I'm gonna borrow this from our moderator and host Dean Bass is talks about our rotational production systems are really based and built around what we consider a normal growing here. And so when was the last time we had a what is actually a normal growing year? So, when we start thinking about building soil health, building that resilience, we start to build a soil that can be resilient when we have those abnormal growing years. It can handle the water in the wet years, but also can emit out water in those real dry years. So, it levels out our production. Healthy soils are also again, resilient soils, and we look at the different what makes up our soils and we think about the chemical and the physical and the biological properties. And we really understand really well the chemical properties of soil we've done soil testing for years, we have probably millions of data points where when we do a chemical soil test we know how much lime it's gonna take to raise our pH. We know how much phosphorus needs to apply, if we want to make a phosphorous application for a 210 bushel corn crop. The physical characteristics, aggregation, the structure and all those different types of things. We kinda understand that, but the soil health part of it is really when we start to dig in and look at some of the biological properties of soil. And as these come together the three legged stool is where really get our healthy in our resilient soils. So why does it matter? How does it benefit as a farmer? How does it benefit you? It can be the basis for very productive soils, productive fields, productive agriculture. A good healthy soil with good organic matter levels. It can increase the soil fertility, a lot of nutrients available cycle through those microbial communities, moisture retention. What we wanna do when we build a healthy soil we want those soils that can absorb those waters those early spring rains. And it can hold them and then meter that out during those July, August periods, especially if you don't have irrigation where some areas we're getting more and more irrigation but not as much in other areas. It provides drought resistance, drought tolerance. It could possibly reduce inputs, as we start implementing some of those soil health practices, if we just implement one at a time, inch by inch, we can reduce tillage passes can reduce some of our fuel costs. We can increase our productivity and profitability of our farm. I think this is a really interesting slide, and it's one that maybe we've seen before about how was a healthy soil helps your bottom line, how it matters. They decrease as an increase of soil fertility. I really liked this. This is out of the North Dakota State University and extension publication, but really puts a dollar value on soil organic matter and the associated nutrients. So, really as we start to move the needle just a little bit about trying to increase our organic matter in our soils, we also increase the nutrient availability and that's another play area where it can reduce costs. The microbial diversity and resilience of the soil also is a benefit. And as we start the day get a little bit more to soil health in organic matter and why is important. Organic matter, And we'll talk about it a little bit later is really the primary food source for both those microbial communities. So, anytime we can do things that's gonna put organic material into our soils, we're gonna continue to build and feed those microbial communities. And it's those soil microbes that really drive the nutrient cycles of the soil and influence those nutrient availability to plants. Many times it's every nutrient that's available for a plant has to pass through the gut of a microbe. So, having those microbial diversity having those functional system where the microbes are active and working really creates an environment of resiliency for your soil and productivity. One of the things that an advantage to having a lot of microbes, a lot of the microbial diversity is what they call it's the functional redundancy in a soil. Many microbes conduct the same function, and as soils change, as conditions change as maybe it gets dry or it gets wetter different microbes step in and take that particular function. So, having a real diverse microbial community in your soils creates that functionality of your soils. And it creates that resilience. Resilience is just that soil's ability to resist and recover from into a healthy state. When we have the heavy rains, tillage, a lot of those different things that happen during the process of producing a crop, whether it's planting and harvesting, it builds resilience in that soil so it can bounce back quickly and it benefits the environment. We talk about some of the environmental concerns that communities have. when we have plants growing, remove CO2 from the atmosphere, those roots, those root residues they become organic matter in our soils. Healthy soils are less... they don't erode. It keeps the top soil in place keeps it in. When usually the top soil leaves, we have nutrient runoff. Healthy soils acts like a sponge retaining and filtering water. And then the carbon sequestration in the carbon markets. That's another, I think benefit that farmers are gonna have. So, Christina, you wanna step in here? - I sure will. So, when we're looking at an ideal soil, soil that is productive it's going to grow your crops, there's a few things that we want in that soil. We need water and air and water and air is extremely important. And you need about 25% of your pore space should be filled with water and 25% of air and that's 50%. So, water and air is an extremely important component of a healthy soil. We also have our solid component and those 45% of that is inorganic or mineral materials. And that is your soil type. That is what was dropped when the glaciers came through the state, that's what dropped those soils, and that's what what's there naturally, only 5% is organic matter. And that 5% of ideal soil composition is what we, when we talk about soil health, that's what we really wanna work on. That's what we wanna improve. And that 5% is the smallest fraction of an ideal soil composition but we have the biggest impact on that. So, when we're looking at components of soil organic matter there's a lot in soil organic matter. A lot of times we just think of the decomposing portion of it, and that's a good part of our soil grading matter, 33% to 50% of soil organic matter total soil organic matter is in that decomposing organic matter form. That's a active fraction that is what's actively decomposing, breaking down, releasing nutrients for the microbes, releasing nutrients for our plants. But we also have other parts of organic matter when we're looking at total organic matter, we have that fresh residue which is about 10% and that fresh residue is a stuff that is just died. Just think of it like a leaf it's fell off and it's dying. The other portion, 5% is living organisms that's the organic matter that's still alive in our soil, that's the microorganisms, that's roots, that's all of that stuff in the soil that's still alive, And even on our surface it's all of those living plant material. And now 33 to 50% is what we call stabilized organic matter. And another word for that is humus. We're gonna talk about all of these a little bit later, but I want you to understand that that stabilized organic matter is really a large proponent of total soil organic matter. But when we're looking at what benefits soil for production that really is the least value or has the least value for active production of agriculture products. Well, if you wanna slide, we'll talk about them. So, let's talk about soil organic matter and we're gonna use a lot of references and the easiest thing for me to think about is soil organic matter. It's like a foundation to a house. So, what does soil organic matter give our plants? What does it give our soil? It gives our roots a place to grow and live. It keeps our roots healthy, active organic matter means we have active root health. It also helps with an improved drainage like Paul was talking about earlier, if we have good soil organic matter, it causes aeration, it causes places in our soil where water can move through, be held in lower profiles and be used by your plants later. Or in cases of large rain events that actually will quickly move that water away. Soil organic matter with those aggregates allow water and nutrient storage holding that water, holding that nutrient there so when our plants need it, it can help reduce greenhouse gases. When we're talking about that carbon sequestration, we're talking about the carbon credits soil organic matter can reduce those gases and let's not forget that it has nutrients. It holds those nutrients for our plants to use, not to mention organic matter and microbes can get their food from that organic matter also. So, when we're look... We're gonna move a little bit. We're gonna talk about building up soil organic matter. In a perfect world we could see soil organic matter, building up really quickly. We do one practice on the field and we build up that soil organic matter, it's gonna help us for our upcoming years. Unfortunately, that's not the case. It is actually a very slow process. Dean gave us a slide several years ago and it's pretty slow. He's estimating that's gonna take about 6 1/2 to 10 years to increase soil organic matter by 1%. Now, again, that's total soil organic matter that is living and that's a humus but it takes that long for it to increase by 1%. So, if you're really concerned about organic matter if you really wanna grow your organic matter you need to start now. And there's several things we're gonna talk about in increasing organic matter. So, like I said earlier , we got a couple of different organic matter categories. We have our fresh, and that's an active portion, that right there is the plants and the microbes. That's the stuff that is actively breaking down. And that's what we really, really wanna see. That's 15 to 20% of our organic matters in that act of form. And then we're looking at slow release. This is a part of organic matter that's recently residues that are being decomposed as are not part of that active it's 15 to 20% of our total organic matter. And it's actively breaking down, releasing those nutrients, releasing the food for microbes so that our plants can survive. Then we have that humus, that stable, that is 60 to 70% of total organic matter is that in that stable form. This is really, really resistance to further decomposition. This will actually last for centuries. We build up this part of organic matter and why that's important even though there's not much nutrients being released the stable form of organic matter is really important for shelter, And that's where our microorganisms live, that's where they can actually eat and survive. To that end, I don't want to say when we talk about agriculture we talk a lot about active, but stable organic matter is also extremely important. The best way, the best example that we can use to talk about this type of organic matter is two very common thing we have in a house, we have a brick and a sponge and this is information we took from a Jim Horman from Ohio State. But I want you to think of your stable soil organic matter, think of that like a sponge it's gonna store that water, it's gonna store those nutrients and it gives those microbes a home to live. That's the best way of looking at it and it's gonna hold it there. Now, again, they're both extremely important. This is actually a picture. A lot of these pictures we got from Dr.Singh Snap. If you look at active soil organic matter again it's food for your microbes. So, on your left, you see some of those microbes you see those bacteria, the fungi and those protozoa and all of those are living in your soil. And that's what breaks down or decomposes organic matter to release those nutrients, and they get their food from that organic matter. And that equates to nutrients and water and healthy roots through that. But on your land you actually see some of that stable, some of that humus and you can see that's where those microorganisms live on your right, the picture on your right, that is actually a picture of humus. See, it's not breaking down any farther. that's where that bacteria is living. That's what we need, we need that humus in the soil for the active carbon, those active microorganisms to lives and they can grow. So, let's talk about how to improve soil organic matter. And again, this is just a rough estimate. Soil types are going to be different. So, you really need to go out there and know your soil and know what you've got out there, but let's talk about how to improve your soil organic matter. So, the first one I wanna talk to you about is the fresh, and this is those plant and animal residues and microbes that are, some of them are living still, or they have just recently died. So, how long does that take to break down? In sincere it just recently died, it could take days to break, for that to make any changes up to months. So, when we're looking at the active it seems pretty quick, but remember, it's actively breaking down, so the nutrients are there but then it could be gone really quick too. Then when we look at that recent residues, that slow part of organic matter that are starting to decompose that could take a couple of years for that to actually improve soil organic matter. And that goes back to what the slide earlier we talked about that Dean put together that it could take six to 10 years for that to actually show a big increase in our soil organic matter. And then when we talk about our stable. A stable organic matter, that's how long it takes for that slow release, that active to breakdown where it cannot decompose any farther. So, it's humus that could take three years to decades for that to happen, depending again on your soil type and microbes in the soil. And that right there can last for centuries. So, that's really why it's really hard for us to talk about how long it takes to improve soil organic matter. That's why there's such a big range, because it depends on so many factors not just your soil type but it depends on your tillage, it depends on environmental factors, it depends on how much rain and weather may get. So, really when we're looking at improving soil organic matter, it's a process we need to start and slowly work our way there. Paul, you wanna take over soil factory? - Okay. One of the things I want you to look at if we're gonna start moving the needle, we talked a lot about organic matter and we saw the three pores, and if we're really gonna start moving the needle, we really like to think about focusing on that active portion. And that active portion is really the portion that feeds those microbial communities. And we can get the quickest response to building soil health. And I always like to refer to your soil, think of your soil as a factory, and think of the things that go in to that soil and the inputs and the outputs. One of the inputs is solar energy. And that's free energy from the sun. And when we have live plants growing in your field, you're capturing that free energy, and you're taking the photosynthesis material and you're pushing it down into the plants into the roots and into the roots there's gonna be the root exudates. And in that side, that soil factory you think of the factory workers as microbial communities and they all have a function. Then they're all, they're taking some of the raw materials, the minerals in the soil and the water and they're building and growing plants, crops, roots and those are your outputs. So, in order to think about doing that is how we gonna move that needle. I always like to think of how to take a live root challenge. As farmers we really focus on production efficiency, we look at how can we make one less pass from a tillage standpoint, how can we increase our yields, how can we reduce our fuel use. We're always looking for... We're doing a lot of different things to improve our efficiency. One of the things that I always challenge farmers to do is think about how many months a year you have live roots growing in your system. And if we think of our soil factory we think of those live roots as solar panels collecting that free energy and putting them into the soil to feed those microbial communities as well as produce plant outputs and productivity. And it's really interesting because I pulled this slide out of the Michigan field crop ecology book, a book that's actually been in print for quite a while. But if you look at a corn and soybean rotation, two years in that 24 months, we really have live roots in that soil 32% of the time, less than 1/2 in a corn and soybean rotation. If we have soybeans and wheat 57% of the time, soybeans, wheat and clover cover crop 92% of the time. So, think about your rotation in each individual farm as a system that they use at work, but how many months a year do you have live roots? And I guess the challenge then is how do we continue to increase that? How would we increase the months a year that you have live roots growing, considering that when you have live roots, you're capturing sunshine, you have that microbial activity going on in the soil around those live roots, that rhizosphere effect. So, if we're gonna move the needle, this is one way that I think we can really think about our farming system and challenge ourself that to have live roots more often because when we have live roots, we're building them we're building soil aggregates, we're building soil organic matter. And if we think about organic matter especially that active portion is what drives our soil system. How do we keep live roots? How do we build those live roots? And you can see on the left, you see those roots, you see those aggregates building around those roots, as we get that rhizosphere effect that aggregation, those soil glues, pulling those soil particles together and creating those aggregates. And it's building organic matter along the way. So-- - Paul, we got a question that goes along with that. - I'm sorry. Go ahead. - How can we effectively and economically tract microbial mycorrhizal activity in our soils through time? We need metrics to measure regeneration. - Well, we're gonna come up on that a little bit, and that has to do with some of the soil health testing that's happening now. And we can do those tests in-field, we can do them in labs. We're gonna talk about that just a little bit to give ourselves a baseline. And that's one of the challenges with soil health right now is how do we measure it? - There's a quick follow-up to that. How do fungicide applications impact soil and foliar mycorrhizal? - You know, those are really good questions. They're questions that people are asking a lot about when you put a fungicide application on the surface how does that impact the fungi below? And I think the science is still, a little unclear on that. You can talk to different researchers and some will give you one point of view. Some will say it has a negative effect, some will say it doesn't have any effect. And I guess my answer is the science is still out on that question. My response is if we can build up high populations of microbes and fungi, they can offset some of the loss on the other side. I think that's... I've listened to some soil health soil microbiologists talk about that question the fungi applications and how it impacts. And it seems like the jury's still out on that. - And remember just like everything else, there's different mycorrhizal out there, and it's gonna be impacted different with those fungicides. So, again, it goes back to the diversity. Some of the fungicide applications might harm one but it might not harm the other. So, diversity is so key. - That goes back to that slide earlier when we talked about those microbial communities and that functional redundancy. So, when we have vast amounts of diversified microbes in the community, if we lose one from a fungicide there's other funguses that can come in and complete that soil function. And I think that's what they kinda mean by having that those large populations of diverse microbial microbes in the soil. So, to build organic matter we need to have roots in the ground. And when we start selecting crops when we start selecting cover crops, we get a multiple benefits from them. So we need to start thinking about that as we pick covers to get in between our production crops, look at a root types, look at those types of things can influence how fast or how we build organic matter and build that functionality in our soils, is a good question. What's more important, the roots or the shoots and this is a slide again from crediting Dr. Sigh Snap on this Looking at corn leaves in how it relates to organic matter versus corn roots. So really if we look at this slide roots matter, we like to have the biomass above the ground and certainly it adds to organic material. But if we look at these different materials and what they leave, roots matter, having live roots matter having those roots in the ground make a tremendous impact as far as improving our soil organic matter and having live roots and improves that soil function. So, how do we understand? And this is where started talking about soil health testing. There's a lot of different ways we can test and look and try to understand what our soil health is. Sometimes it's just a matter of going out there with a shovel and observing, observe your crops growing above and below ground. Look across your different soil types, look at your soil test. What are your goals? What are you trying to achieve? What are those problem areas? And that's just a matter of monitoring those areas. - And this is where, when you set those goals to build your soil, you need to be realistic on that. Give yourself plenty of time. If you have a heavier loamier soils, it takes longer to build heavier soil by 1% organic matter than if you have a sandier soil. It actually takes less input and time to build those sandy soils. But those sandy soils will lose it fast also. So make sure those goals are achievable and they're practical for your situation. - When we look at doing some observations of your soils and sometimes I know farmers are... I think there's nobody that knows their farms and their fields better than farmers, and just that observation. But if you're gonna look at some of just the indicators when you're making those observations count earthworms, look at...That's always a sign of a healthy soil. I think you have to dig pits, dig soil pits, even if it's just a couple shovels full deep to take a look and see what's going on below the ground. Look at the roots, look at your color. Just a little bit of things like, such as that. And here's just an example like the solvita test kits, where you talked about how do you test your soil health and functionality, you can test respiration. Those solvita kits actually are kind of an in-field test that we can take or you can take to take a snapshot of what's happening. And it's really... What it's measuring is soil respiration. The active carbon tests, which is part of the Cornell test. So, there's a lot of different lab tests that you can take but in the... And they measure different things they measure the organic matter. So, there's ways to test and evaluate, excuse me and evaluate your soil health. - I wanna jump in really quick here. This is where knowing your field matters. So, when we're doing these field observations when we're especially looking at those biological indicators, counting earthworms I'm on the West side of the state where it's very, very sandy. Worms don't usually live in a really sandy spot. Just because we have sand doesn't mean it's not healthy. So, using more than one of these tests will give you a much more accurate idea of what's going out there than just doing one. So, don't get hung up on one you can use several of them. - I actually think a good farmers can just get some of these tools. I know USDA, this is an example of a soil health test kit that are available. I know Christina has one, I have one, I think there's some around the state where you can actually just go out and just take some measurements on your own. Again, looking at doing some digging in that kit, there's soil respiration ring where you can gather some of the CO2 measure some of that, you can do water infiltration tests, you can do bulk density tests, you can do soil pH tests, nitrate tests aggregate stability tests. Those are tests that I think a farmer can just run especially the aggregate stability that we'll slid past. Many of us have probably seen examples of those from presenters, but go out in your field and just get a sink strainer and get a measure of soil, put it in and pour water on it see how those aggregates hold together. Does it just break right apart with water currents or do they hold together. But it really gives you an opportunity to do some in-field testing and observing and digging and looking at your soil profiles and do just in-field self-examination. You also have these soil health cards which... Here's an example of the Michigan one. A lot of States have their soil health cards, where you can go and physically score each field, looking at an evaluation of what you think your structure's like, make an observation of the biological activity. And that means what do you see for earthworms? Do you see the decomposition of your residue? Do you have erosion? What does the organic matter look like? What's the color, what's the plant health? If you have a... You don't need a penetrometer to check soil compaction, a shovel or a tile rod really works well to go out and just do those assessments of your own field in different areas in those problem areas. - Now - [Paul] Go ahead. - Before we go on, we've talked a lot about in-field soil tests. You can visit the Soil Health Nexus it's soilhealthnexus.org. It tells you how to do those tests kits or you can call Paul and I, we can walk you through how to do those in-field tests kits. They're pretty easy, and it's with the material you have in your farm you don't need to go buy special material for a lot of these. - And this is just an example of other tools here with that you can test that can be done in laboratories. There's a real challenge in doing the soil health test you really have to be really careful when you send them to the labs that you have to collect the sample properly, to keep it cool because that soil is a live biological system, and if you really wanna get an accurate test. But these are some of the tests that can be made that you can take in-field and to get an assessment snapshot of what kind of soil health you have. It depends on what indicators you're looking at to measure as well. So, from a planning standpoint if you're thinking about trying to, again, move that needle you wanna go out and what do you have? What kind of soils, what are your problems? What kind of condition is the soil in? Do an assessment of what you have, What are the problems? What are the problem areas? What are the problems that need to be addressed? And then the other is what resources are available to help you? If you have questions, there's a lot of agribusiness, there's the NRCS folks, there's extensions, educators like myself, Christina and others across the state. They can be resources and provide you with information and guidance in some of that technical assistance. And resources might be money as well. So, some of these soil health practices there's possibility of cost share through the NRCS farm service agency programs. And then what are the principles here? We talked about the principles of soil health and the four principles, disturb less, increase diversity in crop rotation, keep your ground covered, grow live roots throughout the year. Which one of these principles make sense for your farm? Depending on your production system, you may need to do tillage sometimes that tillage if your vegetable system, sometimes it needs to be a more aggressive tillage. How do we... Is this and that principle makes sense to solve our problem? Can I increase my crop rotation? Is there ways I can put diversity in my rotation extended? How can I keep it covered? Can I leave residue? We need to keep that arm and protect those soils just if nothing else for the velocity of raindrops and protection of erosion. And the other one that I think is really important is keeping those live roots growing as many months a year as possible. Which one of those principles make sense for your farm? 'Cause each farm is different. Everybody has a system that they're very comfortable with. And how can we take and add maybe one of these principles just to kinda move that needle a little bit. I bet this is a really busy slide and it probably violates all the rules of PowerPoint presentations, but I think this is a slide that's gonna table out of the building soils for better crops. It's a serial publication, and I think it's a really nice management tool for individuals. Now, that serial publication is a downloadable online or it could be purchased as a book but it really looks at some of those physical and biological and chemical concerns that you might have. And it looks at some of those short term and long term practices that you might be able to implement to solve some of those problems that you might have. It's a really nice tool you can get it online and I think it's very helpful to make those short term decisions to have some of those long-term results. So, kinda summarize Christina, you wanna summarize are you ready to start rolling? - So, if you wanna improve your soil health the first thing that we recommend you do is to look at your carbon, diversify your crops to increase that carbon, and really could think about how much you're increasing about with the quality of that organic matter. If you can keep it some of that active carbon in your cycle, you're actually gonna see a lot of good increases in organic matter. And then while you're growing that carbon remember to reduce those losses you wanna slow the decomposition of organic matter, reduce your tillage as much as you can, and then keep on adding those crops, grow crops with tissues slow to degrade, which is gonna diversify your crop rotation is also gonna diversify that microbial population. - I think one of the things that's important as many of the decisions that you make. And I saw this quote, in the battle of short and long-term thinking, the short-term always wins. And as a farmer you plant a crop and at the end of the season, you've gotta pay the bills. For some funny reason, the bankers want their money and everybody wants their money. So, you really think short term year after year, but I think we need to implement some of those short-term practices then if we're gonna achieve some of those long-term goals. And when I think of soil health, I think of how can we move the needle by managing some of those active pores of organic matter? And we can do that by adding light, adding roots, adding cover crops, maybe adding some manures and compost and those types of things. So, with that, I think we're pretty close to our timeline. We'd certainly like to open it up for questions if anybody has them and-- - Yeah. Thanks Paul. Thanks, Paul and Christina, just a reminder if you have any questions, you can put them in the chat box or you can unmute and ask a question. We have a couple of things in the chat. Lindsay Abby wanted to point out that there's meat as well, there's cost share available. And Aaron wanted to confirm that point so, keep that in mind. We've got a question from William Harrison, vineyards and orchards often maintain bare ground beneath the plants and vegetative space between the rows. How does that affect the soil quality distribution? - That's a good question, William. And we're actually working on that. I've got some projects that we're gonna be starting looking at vineyard specifically but we've been doing some stuff in vegetables for a number of years. We can put cover crops and we can do other types of mulches in those rows to increase that soil health. And what we're actually wanting to do is to increase that soil microbial population to get that redundancy back into it. So, we can reduce inputs, we can actually reduce environmental degradation if we can apply, if we can build up that soil health. So, we're working on that. We are seeing some good results in some of our plants especially in the Christmas trees and those long-term rotations of making that soil, actually making it healthier. We're actually seeing less inputs and fertilizer by putting in some of those living mulches or those rows. - And Melanie noted that in our permaculture orchard we added organic matter through filling woody debris in soil to feed planted berms cover crop concept is less applicable than in-field crops but over time potentially may yield some results. - So, if you use something like woody material really really keep an eye on your fertility, 'cause you're actually gonna be changing your microbial population going to... So, you really wanna watch it, do a lot of soil samples and a lot of soil tests keep track of that pH. Microbes need a pretty neutral soil in order to survive. So, you need to make sure you keep your pH around that 7.0, in order to make sure you have a healthy microbial population. - The other thing I might add when you start adding some of those, the woody material think about your carbon nitrogen ratio the CN ratios are really important in a soil system. We wanna keep in close to 24 to one because if we start getting really high carbon a lot of the microbes are gonna gather some of those that available nitrogen in the soil to break down that carbon is gonna be less plant available. So, it's all a balance, these practices are all things that you need to find the one that's adaptable and works in your farming system. - And remember everything we're talking about is increasing management. It's gonna take more work, I hate to tell you. - Great. Thank you, Paul and Christina, for your time. As we wrap up the session, I'd like to remind everybody to please take the survey. It helps us do a better job with our program. We'd like your input. For those of you that are looking to get RUP and CCA credits that is taken care of at the end of the session survey. So, take the session survey and then you'll be shown the QR code for CCA credits and we will collect the information needed for reporting attendance to MDAD. So, click on the link that's in the chat box, the Bentley miagideas link, and it'll take you to the survey and get you those credits.